Where are you going?

Pastor Steve Ellison

Abram and Sarai got impatient waiting on the promise of the Lord. Sarai sent her servant, Hagar, into Abram’s arms. Hagar conceived and quite expectedly Sarai became jealous and resentful. Hagar fled to the desert to escape mistreatment from Sarai. Hagar stopped beside a spring in the desert on the road to Shur.

Genesis 16 records what most people regard as an Old Testament appearance of Christ as the Angel of the Lord. Genesis 16:7-11, Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. He said, "Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come from and where are you going?" And she said, "I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai." Then the angel of the Lord said to her, "Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority." Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, "I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count." The angel of the Lord said to her further, "Behold, you are with child, And you will bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction. (NASU) In a marvelous display of mercy, God sought out this humble maidservant who had gotten caught in Abram and Sarai’s devious scheme so that He might encourage her, provide for her, and promise blessing to her. The Angel of the Lord reassured Hagar that He had indeed seen and responded to her affliction. God certainly kept His promise regarding the descendants of Hagar. Ishmael, just like Jacob, fathered 12 sons. The descendants of Ishmael cannot be counted.

On the surface, the instruction from God did not seem to be terribly encouraging but our ways and thoughts are not His ways and thoughts. God told Hagar to return to Sarai, her mistress, and submit to her. Submission never sounds very appealing to us and it probably did not appeal to Hagar either, but it illustrates well one of God’s principles of successful living. Even though we don’t understand, even though we don’t approve, even though we don’t enjoy, God commands us to submit to the authorities He has placed over us in our families, our jobs, our governments, etc. The order, harmony, and efficiency that will naturally spring from each of us willingly submitting to authority placed over us, will be a great blessing and benefit to everyone.

Okay, first question answered. We know where Hagar was coming from. She was running from authority. Second question: what was she running to? She was on the road to Shur, which is a desert on the east side of the Red Sea. The name Shur means “enclosure” or “wall”. It seems to me that in this case, Shur would illustrate not a wall for protection or defense but rather a wall behind which one could be imprisoned. Running from authority will not land us in a place of harmony, order, rest, protection, peace, and happiness. Rather it will wall us in with fear, anger, resentment, and bitterness. Great advice from your Creator: “Return to the authority over you and submit or keep heading to the wall of imprisonment.” The record of Hagar is a great illustration of Romans 13:1-2, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” (NASU)

Pastor Steve Ellison is the director of the Ouachita Theological Training Institute in Mena, Ark.